Economists don’t always get things right. In the late 1950s Gunnar Myrdal predicted that Burma and the Philippines were the two Asian countries most likely to inherit the mantle of rapid growth in the Asian region.
This inaccurate prediction, which many shared, was based partly on the fact that the Philippines and Burma (now Myanmar) accumulated more human capital than other countries in the region. In 1960, the secondary school enrolment rate in the Philippines was 26 per cent — higher than that of Malaysia and Hong Kong and, in fact, higher than that of Portugal and Spain. At 10 per cent, secondary school enrolment rate in the poorer parts of Burma was much lower, but still exceeded the rates of countries that are now significantly richer, such as Indonesia and Thailand.